Post-Election, Will Leaders Act ON Food?

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After a fiercely competitive election, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals gained a majority in the Ontario legislature last Thursday, winning 58 seats. A surprise result for many Ontarians, the Liberals plan to re-introduce their budget on July 2nd after naming a new cabinet.

Vote ON Food

Our Vote ON Food & Farming campaign sought to inform voters about each party’s food and farming plans and to encourage MPP candidates to make food and farming a priority if elected. With over 3,400 page views and letters sent to MPP candidates in over a third of all Ontario ridings, we’re thankful for all the support we received to get the #VoteONFood message across this election.  A big thank you to all of our supporters for making this happen!

If you think that the kind of work we did through the election is important, become a member of Sustain Ontario today.

What does this mean for food and farming in Ontario?

As the Liberals picked up most of their seats in the Greater Toronto Area and Progressive Conservatives won mostly rural ridings, some see the Liberal win as driving a deeper rural/urban divide in the province.

However, having introduced several food and farming policies in their pre-election budget and election platform, including a $400 million food processing fund and farmland protection plan, the party seems to be looking beyond its urban core.

What you can do now

The governing party provided a plan for each of our eleven Platform Report questions, including plans for economy, health, environment, education, and community.  Now it’s time to work together to make sure that those ideas help to move forward healthy food and farming in Ontario.

Contact your MPPs! Whether you met your MPP at an all-candidates debate, sent a Vote ON Food letter to your candidates, or are reaching out for the first time, contact your MPP and ask if they will make food and farming a priority this term.  Those handy resources are still useful post-election!

Fall municipal elections           

Following the provincial election, Sustain Ontario and its members are preparing for the municipal elections that will take place across Ontario in October. To see how you can get involved, contact jamelia@sustainontario.ca.

NFU Asks Voters to Examine Candidates Stances on Agricultural Issues

Guest blog by the National Farmers Union- Ontario

Spring Election 2014

The National Farmers Union – Ontario is an accredited farm organization that represents family farmers across Ontario. The NFU-O believes that agriculture should be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable and that food production should lead to enriched soils, a more beautiful countryside, thriving rural communities and biodiverse natural ecosystems.

With this purpose in mind, this election, voters are being asked to carefully review where their candidates stand regarding agricultural matters. Issues ranging from how Ontario’s farmland and source water will be protected, to cost-sharing when it comes to Risk Management Programs are of high priority.

As Ontarians prepare to elect a leader this week, voters need to examine candidates’ stances on these important agricultural issues:

  • Farmland and source water protection: Legislation to permanently protect Ontario’s Class One farmland and source water regions will ensure that in Ontario we can continue to farm and live within healthy communities.
  • Local food: Ontarians need access to food that is healthy and safe. The government must provide support for smaller distribution channels and regional food-processing, including abattoirs and butchers.
  • Rural Infrastructure: Support for economic development in rural Ontario is much needed, including continued provincial transfer payments to municipalities.
  • Neonicotinoids: The NFU-O has been calling for a five-year moratorium on neonicotinoids. Pollinators must be protected to insure that Ontarians have access to food.
  • Hydro rates: The increase in hydro rates affects all of Ontario, but farmers are not able to take advantage of time-of-use rates. Hydro rates need to be affordable to all Ontarians.
  • Risk Management Programs: The Ontario government needs to provide their portion of the funding to the cost-shared Risk Management Programs. Ontario has refused to contribute their share to all RMPs because of a disagreement with the federal government over the structure of Ontario’s beef cattle support.  The present Ontario government has been waiting out the stalemate while Ontario farmers remain in limbo.
  • Canadian EU Trade Agreement: There will be significant costs for this province if the federal government signs CETA. The province needs to take a cautious approach to CETA.

Agriculture brings us much more than the food on our tables – it sustains rural communities by providing employment and jobs in the agricultural sector and beyond, providing communities with a population that supports the areas in which they live, attending and participating in churches, schools, community centres and organizations.

For more information about NFU-O’s 2014 Spring Election issues and how you can get involved, you can visit their website.

Green Prosperity releases Scorecard

Guest blog from GREEN PROSPERITY:

Parties missing link between environment and economy, survey shows

Toronto, ON – The health of our environment underlies many of the concerns being debated in the Ontario provincial election, from future job growth to health care throughout our province.

But no major party has fully embraced the connection between a healthy environment, a healthy economy and healthy people, according to a survey of party positions undertaken by 20 of Ontario’s leading environmental non-profit organizations.

“From the alarming decline in pollinators to the uncoordinated rush to develop numerous mines and other resource projects in one of our last great wilderness areas, there are big issues at stake in this election,” says Tim Gray of  Environmental Defence.

“We need a clear plan to build a healthy and prosperous province and a strong green economy.  That’s the challenge of our time and we want to give voters the information they need to understand where the parties stand on that question,” says Anna Baggio of CPAWS Wildlands League.

The Ontario Environmental Priorities Initiative sent each of the four major parties a questionnaire on environmental issues covering everything from transit funding and urban planning to endangered species and biodiversity protection.

The questionnaire also covered energy conservation and party views on shutting down the aging Pickering nuclear station; putting a price on carbon to address climate change and encouraging the development of green infrastructure like green roofs and urban forests to make our communities more climate resilient; and how to ensure more than temporary boom-and-bust development in the Ring of Fire in Ontario’s Far North.

It also asked the parties if they would force companies to disclose potentially cancer causing ingredients in consumer products and ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been strongly linked to an alarming decline in pollinators such as bees.

The questionnaire and the party platform documents were used to assess whether the party’s policies would meet the objectives of the eight environmental priorities jointly developed by the 20 organizations involved in the Ontario’s Environmental Priorities initiative. This assessment can be found at www.greenprosperity.ca.

The groups issuing this release are: Canadian Physicians for the Environment, Citizens Environment Alliance, Canadian Environmental Law Association, CPAWS Wildlands League, David Suzuki Foundation,  Earthroots,  Ecojustice,  Environment North, Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature, Greenpeace,   LEAF, Local Food Plus, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Ontario, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Sustain Ontario, Wildlife Preservation Canada

For more information, or media requests, please contact:

Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-3951 ext. 258; 416-570-2878 (cell);ncarniol@environmentaldefence.ca

2014 Ontario Elections Debate: Where does food and farming fit in?

Ethics, energy, job creation, managing deficit, transportation and education were the publics’ chosen top matters of concern for the much anticipated Ontario leaders’ live debate last week. With the first question related to government ethics and trustworthiness, setting the tone for a considerable portion of the evening. This, coupled with the high concern for job creation seemed to take centre stage during the debate. Six of the most popular questions were chosen, according to Steve Paikin, from over 1000 that were submitted by Ontarians. Over the duration of the 90 minute televised broadcast, these video recorded questions were played individually, each followed by the leaders’ responses. Given the nature of the questions, however, other than a brief mention about the Student Nutrition Program under the broader topic of education there was no real opportunity to delve further into the issues contained within the agri-food sector. In his blog, Mike Schreiner also delivered what would have been his responses to those same questions, had he been a part of the debate. It too seemed to be a bit lean on specific matters regarding agriculture.

While it may be argued that generally, many of the responses by the leaders were not exhaustive when it came to specifics; this still brings an important thought to mind. Given that these six questions were supposed to represent the most pertinent concerns of Ontarians, why weren’t agriculture and rural issues a more prominent feature in the responses? It is quite possible that Paikin could be saving those specific questions for a debate later on, yet disputably there were still topics raised that a greater investment in the agri-food industry could help to solve.

It’s agreed that what was talked about in the debate has realistic impact on the everyday lives of Ontarians. That said, at least two of these concerns– job creation and education, can be directly mitigated by implementing better food and farming policies in the province. This view is built on a number of premises, perhaps, one of the most relevant being that, food and farming is now the #1 employer in Ontario.

More specifically…

  • In Ontario, the agri-food industry contributes $33 billion to the provincial economy every year, provides 700,000 jobs and pays $7 billion in wages.
  • Ontario’s food and beverage processing sector generated over $39 billion in 2011 and providing over 125,000 direct jobs.
  • By re-allocating $10 of Ontarian’s weekly grocery bill to locally grown and produced food, Ontario food sales would increase by $2.4 billion and create 10,000 jobs.

Then there’s education…

  • Toronto’s Feeding Our Future evaluation of Student Nutrition Programs found that 61% of Grade 7 and 8 students who ate a morning meal on most days achieved or exceeded the provincial standard (levels 3 & 4) in reading as opposed to 50% of those who ate a morning meal two or less times per week

So then, why was this not brought up during the discussions involving job creation, the economy and children’s education? It appears that despite the evidence that the agriculture and food industries are notable drivers that can alleviate these problems, there’s still limited faith in the sector’s ability to do so. This restricted belief quite likely stems from not always seeing the extent to which food is inter-connected with these other pertinent areas. The challenge then is in sensitizing Ontarians even more about what voting on food and farming really means — that a vote on food is, in fact, a vote on greater job creation and an improved economy. It’s a vote on a future of healthy children who can achieve more at school and who are less likely to develop diet-related illnesses later on in life.  Once this is recognized as a legitimate means to solving some of our most fundamental problems, the benefits to the province will be long lasting.

It is commendable that the Local Food Act has been supported by all parties, which is a step in the right direction, but room still exists for even greater inclusion of food and farming related solutions. It is hoped that in future discussions during this election season, agri-food associated solutions will be recognized as a vital contributor towards reducing unemployment rates and improving the economy, health, education and lifestyles for all the people of Ontario.

 

Celebrate Local Food Week: Cross-Party Support for the Local Food Economy

This past Monday marked the beginning of Ontario’s first Local Food Week, a tribute to Ontario’s farmers and food producers. This new annual celebration takes place during the first full week of June, as proclaimed in the Local Food Act, a series of good food-focused ideas universally recognized as a way to grow a healthier future for Ontario.

With a provincial election just a week away, we’ve heard many more ideas about how good food and farming could be supported by Ontario’s new government. How do we build on the Local Food Act and other promising opportunities? We sent a survey to the four major parties to ask them about their specific plans.

Based on responses to this survey and platform scans, we are happy to report that all parties will continue to support the local food economy! Each party has committed to using the power of food and farming to grow job opportunities across the province. Additionally, unanimous support for the Local Food Act means Ontarians will still see increased purchasing of local food by public sector institutions, as well as goals and targets for increased food literacy and the Community Food Program Donation Tax Credit. We look forward to seeing all of these measures proclaimed and further developed after the election.

2014 Platform Report web preview

See what else they support on our 2014 Party Platform Report.

This new Report shares parties’ commitments to supporting healthy food and farming policies across priority areas including the economy, healthcare, the environment, social assistance, and education. You can read the parties’ responses in full on the Downloads page, alongside the original questionnaire and links to each platform. Other Vote ON Food and Farming resources include a series of “Good Food Ideas” platform asks, a fact sheet, and a variety of signs and questions for you to use in your community at debates and other election discussions.

You can also email all of your MPP candidates at once using our form at voteonfood.ca.

Celebrate Local Food Week


Visit loveONTfood.ca
: Farm & Food Care Ontario and Foodland Ontario are managing the official hub for the week’s events at loveONTfood.ca. You can share your local food news with the hashtag #loveONTfood and join the bustling conversation online to see what’s happening in your local & virtual community!

Connect with Members: Supporting a viable local food economy means thinking beyond sector and ministry boundaries. Sustain Ontario Members work together from diverse positions in farming, processing, distribution, retail, government, education, healthcare, academia, and non-governmental organizations to build relationships that will grow good food across the province. Explore our Member Directory to learn more about their innovative work.